Creative Workshop Exercises: Easy and Engaging Workshop Activities #9: Increasing Emotional Intelligence with Emotional Intensity Cards

Emotional Intensity Cards


Impact:  Improved Emotional Regulation, Understanding and Management

Materials Needed: One pack of Emotional Intensity Cards for up to 30 people

Tables suitable for groups of 6 players.

Remember, should you decide to buy one or more packs of cards, you can get 10% off your first shop order with a newsletter subscription

Professional Use: Team Development, Management Development, Leadership Development, Health and Wellbeing, Emotional Intelligence Training

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Who is Increasing Emotional Intelligence for?

Our emotional states are important, giving us information (or intelligence) about the relationship between us and the world; however, when they drive us to do things that sabotage our own interests, or damage important relationships, then we need to learn how to work with them intelligently. This exercise is likely to benefit anyone who feels at the mercy of their emotions, that their emotions are out of control or that their emotions frequently get the better of them. This exercise will help them understand how to better manage their emotional state.

How does it help with Emotional Regulation, Understanding and Management?

As people become more aware of the complexity of emotions, they are better able to understand their own emotional states and how to regulate them. Knowledge about classes of emotion, and the graduations of these frequently experienced emotions within each class puts people in a better position to manage their emotional states with intelligence and skill; and to reduce the unwanted negative effects of being out of emotional control.


  • Set aside the suggested uses cards and the answer card – 3 cards in total
Emotional Intensity Cards
  • Take rest of the pack and divide it into the six sets of colour coded emotions.

NB The cards in your pack are NOT on a ring and DO NOT have holes in the corner. I am using a demonstration pack in these pictures

  •  Ask the group to organise into teams of six people

 How to run the exercise

  • Give each team a set of colour coded cards – colour side up
  • Task them to rank organise the cards in order of intensity by the single words on the coloured side of the cards, and to lay out their set of cards, in order, on their table
Emotional Intensity Cards

      Emotional Intensity Cards


  • Get the whole group to cluster around one lay out.
  • Ask the team for that table to explain how they decided on the order. Explore such things as: how did they know something was more intense than something else? What kind of cues were they thinking of?
  •  Next, ask one of the audience to turn over one of the cards at random and to read out both the word they turned over and the question on the reverse. If they turn over a ‘non-question card’ (there is one in most sets) then either use that as a prompt for a question, or just replace it and ask them to pick another card.

 Emotional Intensity Cards  Emotional Intensity Card

  • Once you have the question, instruct the group to quickly break into groups of four to discuss
  • After about 10 minutes, bring the large group back together and ask for a few comments about insight or learning from their conversation.
  • Repeat this process around each of the tables
  • While this is happening, pick up the ‘answer’ card for yourself

 Emotional Intensity Card


  • Then, ask each team to return to their tables and to identify the word amongst their selection that think might be the ‘key’ word for their set of emotions.
  • Ask each team in turn to share the key word for their set of emotions.
  • As they feedback their selection of keywords, check against the answer card in your hand. Gentle redirect any that picked another word, explaining that happy, angry, sad, fearful, disgust and contempt are believed to be core universal human emotions, experienced identifiable across all cultures. (This might lead into a discussion on the challenges of navigating social situations for neuro-diverse individuals, or those with other psychological conditions that impair this facility of emotional recognition).

 An extension of the exercise

If you have more time 

  • Get the large group to once again split itself into teams of six  - made up of one person from each of the previous teams.
  • Each team will be sitting around a set of the colour coded emotion cards 
  • Ask them to identify the highest intensity that at least a few of them have experienced of that emotion (the yellow ‘happy’ set needs to identify the lowest intensity). Note, we don’t want to tip people back into that emotional state, so don’t spend too long here.
  • Ask them to discuss what helped bring the intensity of that feeling down. Ask ‘At what stage of intensity did the emotion or emotional reaction start to feel uncomfortable but manageable?’ using the cards in the set to be able to name the ‘manageable level’ of that emotion (again the yellow group need a reverse question.
  • Ask each group to identify a couple of practical ways of lessening the intensity (or in the case of the ‘yellow’ group, heightening the intensity) of the emotion they are examining.
  • Share these amongst the large group

 The Emotional Intensity Card Pack featured here is available at the Positive Psychology Shop. A discount of 10% is available to new newsletter subscribers 

If you have any queries about the exercises as described, please contact We will publish any queries and answers in the next shop newsletter to the benefit of all.

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Sarah Jane Lewis